Storms
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UK deluged by rainstorms, with foul conditions set to continue until early August

Stormy UK summer 2009
© unknownLightning streaks through a bleak grey sky yesterday - as Britain is drenched in summer downpours.
Lightning streaks through a bleak grey sky yesterday - as Britain is drenched in summer downpours.

And the foul conditions are set to continue until early next month, the Met Office warns.

In Cornwall, homes and businesses were left flooded in Lostwithiel, Par and St Blazey. Yachts capsized in Newquay and there was a sevenvehicle smash on the A30 on Bodmin Moor.

Newcastle was braced for two-and-a-half inches of rain yesterday while firefighters across the North East were put on flood alert. North Yorks, Northants, Beds, Cambs, Wilts, Oxford and Essex were also hit by thunderstorms.

The Met Office's Barry Gromett warned it will be wet for another couple of weeks at least.

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Lightning Strikes Delay Endeavour's Launch Again

Twice delayed in June, NASA again scratches its mission to the International Space Station after 11 lightning strikes are recorded in the launch area. After a check of all systems, NASA hopes to finally get the mission under way July 12.

NASA called off the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour for a third time July 11 after lightning strikes in the Cape Canaveral area prompted the space agency to move the liftoff to July 12. The mission to deliver equipment to the International Space Station was scratched twice in June due to a mysterious launch pad hydrogen gas leak that appears to be resolved.

Cloud Lightning

US: July makes a thunderous arrival in Rhode Island

Rhode Island rains
© The Providence Journal / Kris CraigRushing water flows down Congdon Street in Providence during Wednesday’s heavy rains.
Welcome to the first day of July - - which brought more rain than the entire month of June.

Severe thunderstorms rumbled into Southern New England beginning at daybreak on Wednesday and continuing at 11 a.m. for a second round, clustering together over the southernmost tip of Rhode Island with wave after wave of heavy rain and lightning strikes.

Roads flooded and left motorists stranded in their swamped cars. Lightning struck houses from Westerly to Coventry. Torrential downpours - - at times about an inch an hour - - overwhelmed drainage systems, forcing street and highway closures in parts of South County. The rain gauges used by engineers at the Department of Transportation showed 4 inches of rain fell in just two hours in Charlestown - - approaching levels of a hundred-year storm, said department spokesman Charles St. Martin.

Cloud Lightning

Lightning strikes Amazon cloud (honest)

The dangers of sky-high computing

Amazon's cloud was struck by lightning earlier this week. And that's the truth.

On Wednesday evening at about 6:30pm Pacific time, some Amazon cloud sitters saw their floating servers disappear - and yes, the company blamed the temporary outage on a lightning strike.

According to a web post from the company, the strike zapped a power distribution unit in one of its data centers, taking out server instances in one - and only one - Availability Zone. Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) serves up on-demand processing power from two separate geographic locations - the US and Europe - and each geographic region is split into multiple zones designed never to vanish at the same time.

"A lightning storm caused damage to a single Power Distribution Unit (PDU) in a single Availability Zone," the company said in a web post at 7:33pm. "While most instances were unaffected, a set of racks does not currently have power, so the instances on those racks are down."

Cloud Lightning

US: Texas storms flood, cancel flights, shut off power

Texas sunset
© AP Photo/Matt SlocumThe sun sets behind a windmill after a severe storm swept through the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Wednesday, June 10, 2009, in Richardson, Texas
A series of powerful storms packing heavy rains and frequent lightning strikes grounded dozens of flights, left hundreds of thousands without power and caused widespread damage across portions of Texas on Thursday.

No deaths or injuries were reported from the storms that began whipping the Dallas-Fort Worth area Wednesday night with winds up to 70 mph. By the time the storms cleared the city, some areas of Dallas got more than 8 inches of rain.

More than 180,000 homes and businesses were without power Thursday night, said Megan Wright, a spokeswoman for Oncor Electric Delivery.

Cloud Lightning

Strange Squid-like Lightning Spotted Over France

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© Oscar van der Velde
High above Earth, in the realm of meteors and noctilucent clouds, a strange and beautiful form of lightning dances at the edge of space. Researchers call the bolts "sprites"; they are red, fleeting, and tend to come in bunches. Atmospheric scientist Oscar van der Velde of Sant Vicenç de Castellet, Spain, photographed this specimen on June 5th.

"With my new zoom lens I can now magnify the sky above thunderstorms to get very detailed images of sprites," says van der Velde. "This amazing 'carrot sprite' occurred near the coast of southern France about 250 km away from me."

"Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon," he adds. "They develop in mid-air around 80 km altitude, growing in both directions, first down, then up. This happens when a fierce lightning bolt draws lots of charge from a cloud near Earth's surface. Electric fields [shoot] to the top of Earth's atmosphere--and the result is a sprite. The entire process takes about 20 milliseconds."

Cloud Lightning

Recent Upswing in Lightning

Have thunderstorms been more electrified this year?

So far, 2009 has been a deadly year for lightning strikes. Two people were killed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of lightning-related deaths to six, with 50 injuries reported total. A Southwest Airlines plane was struck by lightning in California earlier this week. Is this trend of lightning strikes on people and airplanes abnormal this year?

On average, 60 people are killed and over 350 people are injured by lightning each year, with June, July and August the most common months for deaths. In 2008, 27 people were killed by lightning and 303 injured.

As for aircraft, 66 have reported lightning strikes so far this year. Last year, 55 reported lightning strikes to airplanes occurred through May.

The number of deaths and the number of airplanes hit does not seem out of the ordinary this year. Actually, the number of lightning flashes is considerably less than what was reported this time last year. As of June 3, 2009, there have been 5,589,686 flashes, with 6,517,381 reported by June 3, 2008.

One of the reasons for this could be colder-than-normal weather across the northern tier of the country that has suppressed the number of thunderstorms and has significantly reduced the number of tornadoes this year. The number of reported tornadoes so far this year is 685, just over half of the average annual amount, which is 1,297.

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Kilauea Volcanic Lightning

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© Stephen O'Meara
On May 19th, adventure photographer Stephen O'Meara was monitoring an eruption of the Rabaul volcano in Papua, New Guinea, when something happened that, he says, "I'll remember for a very long time. A storm cloud approached the volcano's 2 km plume, and lightning began to arc between the two." He set up his camera in a secure location and recorded the "awesome and blinding" spectacle.

This isn't the first time lightning has been observed around a volcano. Recent examples include Alaska's Mt. Redoubt, Chile's Chaitin volcano and Kilauea in Hawaii. Clouds of water vapor shoot out of these volcanoes in a dusty mixture likened to a "dirty thunderstorm," and lightning emerges from within the turbulent plume.

Cloud Lightning

US: Powerful storms hit Oregon

Oregon thunderstorm June 2009
© unknown
Intense thunderstorms pounded Central and Western Oregon Thursday, toppling trees and knocking out power, but apparently causing no serious injuries.

The storms began early in the afternoon and moved north toward Portland, which saw strong winds, heavy rain and a lightning show at rush hour. Several cities saw golf-ball sized hail and there were unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds and tornado activity.

The National Weather Service lifted a severe thunderstorm watch early Thursday evening. The watch was expected to stay in effect until 9 p.m., but the storms were quicker than expected.

Power outages were reported across the storm area. Portland General Electric said about 50,000 of its customers had no lights as of 6 p.m. The utility said the hardest-hit areas were in Salem, Silverton, Woodburn, West Linn and Oregon City.

Temperatures were in the mid-70s in the Willamette Valley when the storm hit, but quickly dropped into the lower 60s. Dan Keirns, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, said the storm was the type usually seen midsummer, not late spring.

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US: Severe thunderstorms strike Central Oregon

Dramatic, even explosive thunderstorms slammed Central Oregon Thursday, pelting the area with more lightning, intense downpours and golf ball-sized hail and knocking down trees and power lines, cutting off power for thousands and causing it to flicker for thousands more.

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the region through 8 p.m. and also a severe thunderstorm warning at mid-afternoon as one of the larger storms located south of Culver, moving north at 20 mph.

Downed lines blocked Highway 126 near Cloverdale for a time, and other downed trees were reported in Deschutes River Woods and southeast Bend.

Police and fire crews scrambled to calls about possible lines and trees down as the skies turned very dark and storms swept through the area before a brief respite, even sunshine at mid-afternoon.

About 2,400 Pacific Power customers lost power at 1:40 p.m. for almost two hours due to a storm in the China Hat Road area southeast of Bend. Another 1,000 Central Electric Cooperative customers lost power for varying lengths as the storms moved through, news partner KBND radio reported.